Walz describes public safety and health priorities, including the legalization of recreational marijuana

A budget proposal for public safety and health from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, which aims to address an increase in violent crime through funding for law enforcement and community programs, also includes a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults.

At a Wednesday news conference explaining the final details of the administration’s supplementary budget recommendations, Walz and Flanagan announced their proposal to invest more than $ 300 million over the next three years in public safety agencies in cities, counties and tribes across the state, as well as more than $ 60 million in community service grants aimed at reducing juvenile delinquency.

It’s the latest set of recommendations part of billions in proposed spending from the governor’s office.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz answers questions after a ceremonial bill was signed at the governor’s reception at the State Capitol in St. Louis. Paul Thursday, July 1, 2021. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

“The rash of crime we’re seeing right now – the age is astonishingly low. Thirteen, 14-year-olds, as young as 11,” Walz told reporters. “The process it’s going to take to protect Minnesota residents and move back upstream to prevent it will require a coordinated community effort, and it will require a budget that is both immediate for the protection of Minnesota residents and long-term for reduction. ”

The crime portion of the budget supplement proposal by Walz and Flanagan is in line with the legislative priorities outlined earlier this week by members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor House in their $ 100 million budget proposal for public safety. Like Walz, the House Democrats in their proposal emphasized a “community approach” to law enforcement and investment in juvenile justice.

Proposals by Republicans in control of the Minnesota Senate also called for appropriations to recruit and detain law enforcement throughout the state, but they also want to increase the minimum sentences for offenses like carjacking and other violent crimes. The Senate Republican leadership announced its priorities for the session at a Wednesday press conference, including using the record-breaking budget surplus of $ 7.7 billion for tax cuts.

Walz and Flanagan’s budget recommendations include hundreds of millions in clean energy, increased access to affordable health care and addressing homelessness – including $ 100 million to support affordable housing in the state.

With the House and Governor’s Office controlled by the DFL and the Senate controlled by the Republicans, proposals made by each party this week will undergo a comprehensive compromise process during the legislative session and are unlikely to reflect the final product for the budget.

MARIJUANA PLAN

The governor’s proposal to legalize marijuana recommends funding for a new Cannabis Management Office to regulate the industry, subsidies for business owners seeking to enter the legal market, and training programs on the potential negative effects of marijuana use. It also calls for a tax on marijuana and the expulsion of non-violent offenses involving marijuana.

Walz and Flanagan said the ban on marijuana has not worked for Minnesota and that the state should instead try to exploit its economic benefits and allow law enforcement to focus on violent crime.

Legal use of recreational marijuana for adults faces strong opposition in the Legislature and from a state-wide coalition of groups. Groups including the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, and the state truck and police associations announced Monday, Jan. 24, their formation of Minnesota’s Against Marijuana Legalization.

Walz had previously said he would sign a law on recreational marijuana, but with opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, the legislation has never reached his desk.

In 2021, the Minnesota House approved a bill that legalizes marijuana for recreational use and removes previous convictions for low-level possession. House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said Wednesday morning that the bill remained alive in the second year of the legislative biennium, and Senate leaders could take it up if they wanted to. She said she did not plan to hold further hearings on the proposal in 2022. And Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said he did not support the proposal.

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